by Karl Hofer.
On 11 September 1945, when a once great nation was at the lowest ebb of its history, among the ruins of Munich a footballing legend was born. As captain of both the national side and his hometown club, he would lead both to unprecedented success and to the pinnacle of the world game. His name was Franz Beckenbauer.
The son of a postal worker, Beckenbauer grew up in Giesing, a working class superb in south-east Munich. Despite his father’s apathy for the game the young Franz was a promising centre-forward and idolised World Cup winner Fritz Walter. He was also a big fan of 1860 Munich, who in those days were the more popular team in the city.
Beckenbauer later admitted of 1860; “It was always my dream to play for them” and he was all set to join them until he played in a fiery encounter against 1860 in the final of an under-14 youth tournament for his then club SC Munich 06. A series of physical confrontations with the centre-half who was marking him had such a strong effect on the young Beckenbauer that he decided to join neighbours Bayern instead.
Before he’d even kicked a ball for the Bayern first team however, Beckenbauer was engulfed by controversy. In 1963, at the age of 18, it was revealed that his then girlfriend was pregnant and that he had no intention of marrying her. This sort of behaviour was so seriously frowned upon at the time that he was promptly banned from the West German national youth team by the DFB, only to be readmitted after the intervention of the side’s coach Dettmar Cramer.
He debuted for Bayern’s senior side on June 6th 1964 playing on the left wing against Stuttgarter Kickers in the second tier of German football. In his first full season the team won promotion to the newly formed Bundesliga.
Bayern soon became a force in the new German league, winning the German Cup in 1966–67 and achieving European success in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1967. Beckenbauer became team captain and led his club to their first league title in 68/69. It was around this time that Beckenbauer began experimenting with the sweeper/libero role, refining the position and becoming the greatest exponent of the attacking sweeper game.
Beckenbauer stayed with Bayern through the 1976-77 season, accruing a total of 461 appearances and 53 goals in all competitions. During that time, Bayern won four Bundesliga titles, four DFB Cups, three European Cups, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and one Intercontinental Cup.
Der Kaiser also enjoyed success with the West German national team, for whom he made 103 appearances, winning the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 World Cup. He also won numerous individual honours, including the 1972 and 1976 Ballon d’Or awards.
Beckenbauer finally parted ways with Bayern when he accepted a lucrative contract to join the New York Cosmos in 1977. He spent four seasons in New York and the Cosmos won the Soccer Bowl three times.
A return to Germany with Hamburg followed (1980-82) and despite playing a limited role he still helped guide HSV to a Bundesliga title.
He retired from playing in 1983 and quickly turned his hand to management, starting with the West German national side – and yet again success went with him. When West Germany won the 1990 World Cup, Beckenbauer became only the second person to win the Jules Rimet Trophy as both a player and manager (Brazil’s Mário Zagallo was the first).